Spider mating is like two serial killers making out. Sure, they’d like to hook up, but each one is also likely to kill the other. Because male and female spiders both walk around with venom-packed fangs and a penchant for the arthropod buffet, many species have come up with some cool behaviors to form a truce and get busy.
The Hopeless Romantic
To let their girlfriends know they’re available for love and not supper, male Argiope writing spiders strum out a love song on the females’ webs. Responsive females invite their boyfriends in for “coffee” and they go at it. But male writing spiders aren’t taking any chances with paternity.
Once they mate, they die with their sex organs still clinging inside the female, using their whole bodies as mating plugs that remain there until someone eats them or they fall out.
To let females know they’re into them, Grass spiders, Agelenopsis aperta, flex females’ webs and then sway their abdomens from side to side in a hypnotic spider-love dance. Once females seem down to party, males release “spider roofies,” an airborne chemical that makes females pass out cold.
The Emotional Abuser
When they’re ready to roll, black widow (Latrodectus) females release a “come and get me” pheromone that draws males from all around. To reduce competition, an early arriving male quickly wraps up some of his potential girlfriend’s web, decreasing her pheromones’ attractiveness to other males.
Spotted orb weaver (Neoscona crucifera) males find a good thing and take no chances. If one finds a web with an immature female living in it, he’ll wait, sometimes for days, on the web’s fringes for her to mature.
The Touchy-Feely Guy
Male striped lynx spiders (Oxyopes salticus) grab their girlfriends’ attention by dancing a special lynx spider dance. Once a female says she’s game, her boyfriend gives her a leg massage before he mounts her. They can mate for up to two hours.
Want MORE fun spider stuff? Stay tuned for Roar and Chris Buddle’s spider book, or follow Chris (@CMBuddle) on Twitter. Chris did the research for this post. Want even MORE fun spider stuff? Check out our favorite Spider Woman, Catherine Scott (@Cataranea) for spidey news and the photographer with an amazing spider’s-eye view of the world, Sean McCann (@Ibycter).
By Roar and illustrated by Dan Olmstead. Dan (@dolmstead) is an illustrator and photographer based in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Dan has a masters degree in entomology from Cornell University and uses illustration as a way to help viewers more intuitively understand important aspects of science. To see more of his illustration work, visit www.danolmstead.us.